Monday, July 31, 2017

Houston #1 renovator, culinary bragging rights, cash-out parking, global HTX, and more

This week I'm digging into a few older links I probably should have posted earlier, but somehow didn't get around to:
"...compel employers who provide free parking to offer transit benefits (like a pre-tax bus pass) or a cash payment to workers who find another way to the office. The goal here isn’t to stamp out cars, but to let the non-drivers “cash out” the value of "free" parking. Research suggests this sort of “parking cash-out” works. A series of LA-based case studies by UCLA urban planner Donald Shoup found these programs can decrease the number of drivers who motor alone to work by 17 percent, and increase rates of carpooling, transit riding, biking, and walking." 
"Everything’s big in Texas—including home renovations.
Houston homeowners, with a median budget of $704,000, outspent remodelers in 74 other U.S. metro markets, according to an analysis of building permits for high-end projects.
...
“People are feeling really good about the city, and the amount of money they can put into their houses,” said Stephen McNiel of Creative Property Restoration, a builder in Houston."
    Definitely a sign of the high standard of living here (average salaries adjusted for the cost of living) that people can afford to spend so much on home renovations.
    "With full recognition that our credibility is suspect, I nonetheless come today to proclaim Houston one of the great eating capitals of America. I mean (and here I mount the mechanical bull) far better than anywhere else in Texas, better than anywhere else in the Southwest, better for that matter than in my current place of residence, Washington, D.C. That the nation’s fourth-largest city is no longer one gigantic steak platter for oil barons should not constitute breaking news. One can go on about the city’s indigenous assets, such as its array of Gulf Coast ingredients and its surprising multiculturalism. 
    But the main reason for Houston’s culinary ascent is economic. This became clear to me one afternoon last fall while eating at Étoile, a vibrant French restaurant that opened in 2012 near the city’s famed Galleria mall, and whose chef and owner, Philippe Verpiand, hails from Provence. After running a restaurant in San Diego with his wife, Monica, for seven years, Mr. Verpiand decided in 2011 to check out Houston. What he discovered, he told me, was that the Bayou City “is very affordable and full of people who like to go out at night and spend money.” It costs probably one-third less to build and design a restaurant here than in California, he said, adding, “I can afford to pay sous-chefs full time and be able to spend the weekends fishing and duck hunting with my boys.” 
    Such cost savings are passed on to Houston’s consumers, who can enjoy a first-rate meal here for maybe two-thirds of what such a dinner would come to in New York or San Francisco."
    Finally, continuing our series of COU videos on Texas cities, this week's focus city is San Antonio, a city I visited last weekend and really enjoyed despite the 100+ degree heat.  The Pearl District is the most impressive industrial re-adaption I've ever seen - Houston needs something similar!



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